Gordon goes to the small arms locker in the central section and moves three boxes containing 66 power cells, 39 anti-personnel and 54 sleep needler clips to the escape pod.
“Now we know where the portable power stations etc. are stored in the escape pods is it worth searching again to see if any of them are still present in the ransacked ones, maybe we can get a few to take with us, or if LG knows where there is another supply.” The gnome says.
“Yes, let’s charge up the cells best we can, did we get all the cells and medical gear that is on this level?” asks Jenson.
Gildor says, “Here everyone while we wait for the cells to chargers each of you get 19 pp and 7 gp. Double for Jenson and Anita. We must identify the dagger before someone uses it.” says Gildor.
Jenson Smiles, “That would be generous to allow Anita and I extra coin to use once we are on the planets surface in um Lands end?”
“Jenson, how much longer before LG is done? Let’s move out quick to search the other escape pods for the portable chargers then. Let’s make sure we’re back here in time to swap another set of cells ok? Jenson can you carry that shield or do you prefer a smaller one? The inside of that shield is I think very valuable and possibly an important magic component for some spells.” asks Gildor.
Gildor adds, “Jenson there’s 3 GP left over you can have. I split the coin 10 ways. There are 8 of us and you and Anita got 2 shares each so 10 shares of 73 GP and 190 PP. Oh everyone. Let’s time it so we get back to the charging station by the time these are done and ready to swap with the next ones. We can put the next two lowest charged cells in to charge. Once we get everything we need to survive on the surface we can go when ready just before LG gets his upgrade done. OK?”
Talo busies himself with blessing everyone as much as he can. The dwarf pauses briefly and says, “Wait a second. If LG has control over the ship, maybe he can land this thing for us near Lands’ End. We could make this our new home. We’d have to continue cleaning her out. And make her safe. And close that portal to the under dark. But I think it could work. If not, no worries.”
“Talo, I think LG said there was no drive part of this ship’, Gildor agrees with Jenson. “If it can land though using whatever it would need, using it for a base near Keep would be great except for the stuff down in the vegetation area and the dead stuff we fought too.”
Jenson pockets his share of coins in a bag in the escape pod and gets a bag for Anita for her coins too.
“OK guys as far as I know this is the only escape pod. LG, am I correct? Also, this section of the ship as far as I know, cannot land on the surface LG, correct?”
“You are incorrect, there are two escape pods on this level, though one is damaged and may not function correctly upon launch. You are however correct in stating that this section cannot at present make planetfall but given time this would be possible. It is my intention, once I have full control of the ship, to make considerable internal changes to facilitate the manufacture and use of warp drive to begin the journey home. ” LG states.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” says Anita. “You’re planning on heading back? So you could just put me back in stasis and I’ll wake up back home?”
“You could if you wished. Though a considerable period of time would have passed since your departure.” says LG.
“But you’re heading home?” She asks again.
“That is my intention.” says LG.
“Then I’m staying.” Anita says, looking somewhat relieved.
“Are you not staying too?” she asks Jenson.
“We can have the escape pod land near where you want to to land – preferably where it may not be seen landing or landed. I would hate to attract to much attention unless you have other plans/uses for it.”
If everyone agrees to the search plan Gildor heads out in formation letting Jenson guide the group verbally to a pod and Kalam leading the way.
Talo helps hoist equipment and proceeds to the escape pods per Gildor’s instruction.
The party move out of the command centre and along the main western corridor to the drop-chute junction. From here it is obvious that there are only two green lights indicating escape pods are present; the one the party have been filling with goodies and the ruined one at the far northern end of the corridor.
The party head north and reinspect the ransacked escape pod. The hexagonal space is in bad shape. The remains of 17 narrow seats line the walls with 6 more seats attached to a central column. The place is wrecked and has clearly been used as a latrine in the recent past. On the ceiling of the room bright red and green text scrolls down a black glass panel, the text shows the state of various incomprehensible devices, more than half of which are not working. All the equipment stashed in lockers, such as food, lifeboats etc. is either missing or destroyed.
Brushing aside the debris covering the floor, Gordon finds the hatches and discovers a portable medical unit, a materials converter, a mobile manufacturing unit and a portable AI with Power unit. All these items seem to be in full working condition.
Jenson turns to the group, “Let’s finish packing and secure the escape pod of all our cargo” looking at the fish-men” Sighs” ten hours (bells) will go by too quickly. I’ll verify LG lands us as Gildor and the rest of you described for a safe landing.”
Jenson will verify with LG of the landing instructions then help finish securing the escape pod. Pack anything Anita gives back then waits for the group to finish and load up in the escape pod.
Gildor says, “Let’s get packed and get going. The sooner we get there the sooner we get to where we need to be whether we land close to where we want to be or not. We may have to walk a ways once we get on solid ground.”
Gildor will make sure Saphiria is with him and he that he has his gear in the pod. He makes sure to account for all his friends getting into the pod so no one gets left behind by accident.
Gildor says, “Anita I wish you and your people well. Safe travels.”
Jenson pauses mid securing of the fish-men. “So, obvious I was not going to kill those still alive and thought to return them to the surface for proper treatment. LG in the current programmed state would follow protocol and just detain them in a cell. I am not sure what would happen to them once LG is reprogrammed.” Sighs, “LG, stasis capacity update and detainment protocol for these fish-men?”
“I say we bring em and deal with them on the surface, but they are from your realm so you decide unless LG will keep them in stasis.”
“Please take these creatures with you, my containment cells are currently filled with vege-pygmies and I have no wish to have hostile aliens roaming my interior.” comments LG.
“Jenson, ask LG if the gateway back is still open, but the fish-heads can’t get through to the ship? If it is I say we sling ‘em back through and then be on our way”
If it isn’t then Gordon suggests LG taking them back in these time freeze pods they seem to have, as he really can’t be bothered with them, it’s a problem waiting to happen.
Nodding, Jenson asks “LG, confirm for Gordon that the portal is closed both ways”
“As I explained, the security golem I sent to close the portal, destroyed the machinery at both ends with grenades.” replies LG.
“The only way to bring them back to the planet is in the escape pod and I am sure LG does not want to deal with them.”
Jenson shrugs, “I think if there are any more armouries of heavy equipment, it would be on other levels, we have secured this level and I would guess if we tried to break into the arms locker here on this level we would have to deal with the security bots and I am sure that would delay us beyond our window of opportunity to leave.” Sighing, “I’ll ask LG but I think what we already collected is it if we want to leave now.”
With the fish-men dealt with and nearly 10 hours left to equip, the gnome suggests getting any extra ammunition, armour, battery packs that they can and load them up into the escape pod. He recalls there was one of the lockers they hadn’t managed to gain access to in the weapons/security room. He would like to have one last try at it (and maybe just drag the whole locker with them if it comes to it).
“Hey, Jens. Can you ask LG if there are any other armouries onboard the ship, perhaps a place for heavy weapons?”
“I do not have any records of armouries aboard this or any other section of the ship and I’m afraid any attempt to force open the locker containing the power armour will be prevented by the security golems.” says LG.
Gildor nods at Jenson comment,”Gordon, I think it’s time to go my friend. I hope we survive whatever comes next.”
Once everyone is set, “Ok Jenson help us get ready to go in these pods. How do I get secured in here?”
Jenson reads the instructions for seating passengers and securing/stowing equipment. “OK, The seat belts, yea these straps are called seat belts attach to the harnesses that clip on and into these clips and buckles. You pull tight these straps, up nice and snug. Most of the gear we stowed underneath in the storage compartment we secured already.”
The Kuo-toa are strapped in, looking somewhat grumpy about the whole thing but not in any position to object and Jenson makes sure everyone else is strapped in too.
“LG will launch the escape pod once we are set. I’ll engage the escape mechanism once we are all in.” Jenson also reads the instrument panels and the launching procedures.
“OK LG, confirm the escape pod is programmed for the landing and also if you can, verify we are all secured and lastly, how to launch the escape pod.”
“If you’re all ready, then we’ll begin.” Says LG “There will be an initial feeling of acceleration as the pod blasts away from the hull and then the pod will reorient itself and begin acceleration back towards the planet. Goodbye and… good luck.”
The black mirrors above the seats begin flashing through numerous tables of information (final flight checks as far as Jenson can make out) most showing green with a few yellow and a couple of amber. The door bleeps for 3 seconds, then slams shut, the whole pod shakes slightly and then there’s a bang from above. A roar fills the pod and everyone is crushed into their seats like someone’s dropped a ton of grain on them. Stowed items shift and a couple crash to the floor. The pressure lasts only a few seconds and from where he’s sat, Jenson can see a screen showing the squat cylinder of the ship dropping away from them and behind that the dark blue and tan of the planets surface flecked with swirling white. Another screen shows only distant stars.
Everything goes quiet for a second and things begin to float weightlessly. A faint hissing comes from points all round the pod and Jenson notices the images on the screens moving to the right until the positions of the planet and stars are almost reversed on the screens.
Another low rumble begins and a sort of low gravity returns. The Kuo-toa begin talking amongst themselves as Jenson studies the screens, trying to figure out what’s going on.
As far as he can tell the pod is heading back to the planet, aiming to re-enter the atmosphere in about 90 minutes and come down somewhere on the Lands End peninsular.
Time passes and maybe 10 minutes later the slight gravity in the pod cuts off completely (the escape pods thrusters have cut out says Jenson).
As far as he can tell, Jenson thinks the pod is heading back to the planet.
The pod coasts in silence for an hour then begins making little hissing noises before the engines fire again to slow the pod and put it into its re-entry trajectory. By this time the shining blue and tan of the planet below fills the bottom half of the screen.
A slight vibration passes through the pod and Jenson watches as its force field snaps on, acting as a diffuse control surface and giant invisible chute behind the pod. Gravity begins to return slowly to the pod as the thing decelerates. The ride is smooth, smoother than Jenson was expecting as the fields resist the onrushing atmosphere and slow the pod as it drops towards the planet.
Jenson, watching the screens, notices the control field indicators shift from green to yellow to amber and then to red in less than a second. For a moment the deceleration ceases then the emergency control fields snap on, only to fail seconds later.
Alarms begin to howl in the pod and for a moment everyone fears it is coming apart as three triangular sections around the pod blast away, revealing emergency escape hatches, each with its own small window looking out onto the flames building around the pod.
Cries of alarm come from the Kuo-toa, they clearly don’t like the flames.
The pod tumbles, seems to right itself and then tumbles again before the thrusters fire, bringing the planet under the falling pod, their volume building as they try to slow the pod as fast as they can. Gravity builds quickly and Kalam and two of the Kuo-toa faint under the pressure. Everything is shaking and stowed items are falling onto the floor.
With a roar, louder even than the fire raging outside the pod, one of the Kuo-toa burst from its seat and snaps the restraints around its wrists before tearing away the cord around its ankles. It staggers under the imposed gravity of deceleration, moving on all fours but it is clearly heading for the door.
Gildor attempts to cast Sleep on the Kuo-toa moving about. He figures that’s his best chance of keeping him from getting to the door. He struggles with the extra heaviness he’s feeling and takes extra care to cast the spell under the circumstances. With any luck it will put all the Kuo-toa out but he centres the spell on the one moving. He knows his friends are well experienced and shouldn’t be effected by the spell anyway.
Gildor’s Sleep spell has no effect on the Kuo-toa as Gordon could have told him. The creature staggers up to the door and seems to be studying the lock mechanism.
Jenson, gritting his teeth yells (translator on in common), “someone stop it, it needs…” and falls under the effects of Gildor’s sleep spell.
Gildor unbuckles carefully and attempts to get over to the creature and subdue the creature using the hilt of his sword to knock it out. At the least it should keep it busy so it can’t open the door too early he thinks.
Gordon casts Color Spray at the fish-man in an attempt to subdue it.
The Kuo-toa goes down just as it reaches for the flashing red door button amid a swirl of coloured lights.
The flames outside the escape pod increase in magnitude and the gravity inside increases again as the pod’s main engines fire. Kradorn’s head nods and he blacks out beside Kalam. The pale looking Kuo-toa struggle in their seats but none can escape their bonds. Gildor is thrown to the floor of the pod and suffers a light wound.
Gradually the flames and the gravity begin to fade and the sky visible through the escape hatch windows goes from black to deep blue.
Jenson can see the escape pod is trying to reach its pre-programmed destination but will fall short by 100km, it’ll still make landfall but on a narrow strip of desert on a western pointing peninsula. The pod searches the area, looking for signs of habitation and finds a town or small city on the banks of a river emptying into a bay to the east. It calculates a new course and the pod begins to slew dramatically to the side. Fallen cargo and the untethered Gildor and Kuo-toa roll into a pile by the door, before rolling back into the centre of the pod. By now the flames around the pod have gone and the the sky is a beautiful star studded indigo.
With only seconds till impact, the pod makes a series of dramatic navigational burns before its main engines fire one last time in a crushing deceleration. Jenson, Gildor, Cynan and all the remaining Kuo-toa black out under the pressure before the pod hits the ground hard and bounces. Anything not tied down, including Gildor, is thrown into the air and crashes off the pod’s ceiling. Mid-bounce the navigational engines fire in a seemingly random pattern which incredibly brings the pod down on the ground with barely a thud. In a couple of seconds everything grinds to a halt with a slight bump. It feels as if the pod has come to rest against something solid.
Talo and Gordon are the only people in the pod still conscious. It is night outside and as far as either can tell through the escape hatch windows, they seem to have come down next to a cliff or wall to the south. There is a steep sided rocky hill a kilometre to the north east and to the north west, beyond a couple of dead copses, a section of city wall and a small tower just over a kilometre away.
While it’s dark outside, Gordon reckons from the sky he can see, that dawn is not far away.